Part Two of My Triathlon Debut:
As I got out of the water I was a mix of emotions. Part of me said it’s no big deal… I’ve actually swam 1/2 mile before so it’s not like swimming the distance was a big deal. But what was a big deal was going from crying uncontrollably earlier in the morning to getting out of the water, unscathed. I did it and I did it without drama. And by that I mean, no gasping for breath, no getting knocked around by other swimmers, no hanging on to lifeguard boats.
What’s weird about tris – but it’s the nature of the sport – is that you can’t celebrate mini accomplishments along the way. I would have loved to have been able to chill and relish the fact that I didn’t die in Lake Michigan, but I couldn’t. I had to get to transition to get on my bike. I actually found this “must-keep-going-must-do-the-next-sport” feeling really odd. I hadn’t thought much about it – I had thought about transition and the logistics of making it all work – but I never thought about how I’d feel. I was a bit let down by the fact that to me – the hardest part was over with, yet I didn’t get to truly enjoy it because I had to keep going. On the other hand, I also remember being aware of the fact that “this is what tris are all about” – I had to suck it up buttercup and get going.
I ran the 1/4 mile to transition and once inside the barricades, I stepped off to the side on a patch of grass to take off my wet-suit. I got it off relatively easy and then I picked up my stuff and ran to my rack and bike. Thankfully I had no problems getting to my rack or my bike, I had a pretty good visual cue – a pine tree – to help with my sighting.
I tossed my wet-suit over the rack, put on my socks and shoes, grabbed my race belt and threw that on too. Brian had told me not to put my belt on until the run, but I chose to put it on during the bike because I was worried I’d forget it otherwise. I don’t clip into my pedals so I don’t have to change shoes, which is where a lot of people keep their race belt so they remember to put it on before the run. But all I had to do was take off my helmet and throw on my hat, so I didn’t trust myself to remember it, being a newbie and all. So I put my race belt on, buckled my helmet and threw my glasses on top of my helmet and I was off. I thought I did okay in transition for being a rookie. I didn’t break any speed barriers, but I didn’t dilly dally either.
As I mounted my bike I heard people shouting something. I wasn’t sure what they were shouting or to whom. Eventually I figured out they were shouting at me telling me my glasses were on my helmet – which I knew and is where I wanted them. The sun wasn’t too bad at this time so I didn’t want them on, but I wanted to have them with me in case I needed them. But as they were all so persistent in their shouting, I figured it must have been against regulations to have anything “loose” that could fly off while on the bike. So I grabbed my glasses and put them on. I later asked Brian about this and he said there is no such rule. He thinks the people were just trying to be helpful by telling me my glasses were on my helmet – in case I had forgotten them there. While I appreciate the sentiment behind their shouting, it all kind of freaked me out. When participating in a tri for the first time, getting shouted at by strangers is not very comfortable.
But you know what was comfortable? Climbing the first hill – right after mounting my bike. The course takes riders up the on-ramp and it’s basically right after we mount our bikes, so no time to get warmed up or to get in a low gear. BUT thanks to all the times I accompanied Brian to his mandatory course talks in the past, I remembered the tip that they gave to make sure your bike is in a low gear in order to make that first climb. The course lecture we attended this year, didn’t mention that little tip and I think the folks around me paid for it. I passed probably 4-5 people in the first 50 yards and it was awesome. And it was just the start of the fun that was about to happen for the next 15 miles.
I had never biked with a group before. And I’ve only actually biked with one other person a handful of times and it was usually Brian and he’d ride behind me as not to freak me out by being alongside of me. I was more than a bit anxious to ride with hundreds, maybe even thousands of other riders. I was scared to get too close to anyone and I was definitely worried about the drafting rules in triathlons. I figured it would be just my luck to get a penalty or get DQ’d for something as stupid as drafting, especially since I don’t really even get what it entails. And yes, I know what drafting is in theory – but do I know what it looks like in practice and could I guarantee I wouldn’t do it – nope!? So if I drafted it would have been by accident.
So the only sure-fire way to not get penalized for drafting was to just pass everyone. Simple enough.
I was peddling along and anytime I got even remotely close to someone I figured I needed to hurry up and pass so I didn’t have to worry about drafting.
It didn’t take long to realize that passing people was fun! I spent the first few miles zooming by people and I was loving it. But I figured it wouldn’t last long. In my mind I figured I was passing all of the slow folks and eventually I’d catch up to the people way faster than me and then the fun would be done. But that wasn’t the case. A few more miles and many more people passed. And in full transparency, I was passing a lot of people on mountain bikes. But still… I was passing and that’s all that counts. Plus I was passing a lot of relay people or people way younger than me – so mountain bike or not – they had the upper hand.
I was wearing my Garmin, so I was able to glance at my mile splits and when I saw how fast I was biking, I was pretty excited. It was about a minute per mile faster than any of my training rides. But I didn’t get too excited because the bike course is an out-and-back and the wind was at my bike on the way out. I figured once I hit the turn around my times would skyrocket. But they stayed pretty low. I did increase my times, but I was still doing much better than I had on my training rides.
But it’s not like I didn’t get past. It was around mile 10ish when I really noticed I started getting passed by some people kicking ass. I wasn’t passed by my fellow back of the packers, instead it was by the triathletes that did the “triple”. Doing a “triple” is when a person competes in the super sprint on Saturday, then they did the Olympic distance event first thing Sunday morning and when they were done with that, they got back in the water and did it all over again in the Sprint distance. And contrary to what people may think, this didn’t make them super tired. No, they were super competitive. Anyone good enough to do a triple is good enough to catch me and pass me even though they were 5 waves behind me. I knew they were triples because they were the ones riding $7,000 bikes and were zooming past me as if I was standing still. I actually heard most of them coming before I even saw them. Most of them had disk tires and they make a distinct sound in the wind.
And even though I was now getting past by people who started 5 waves later than me, I wasn’t upset. It was actually fun to watch them bike past. They bike so effortlessly, unlike my biking, you have to give them all the respect and props they deserve. Also at this point, I was just enjoying myself too much to care.
And yes, I was actually enjoying myself. I was biking better than I could have imagined, I was passing people, I wasn’t losing control of my bike while in aero position and I was able to enjoy my surroundings. I made a conscious effort to soak it all in and enjoy the experience. I saw the ferris wheel on Navy Pier, I saw the skyline, I saw both the Hancock and the Sears Tower (no I will not call it the Willis) in the distance. It was a beautiful day for a bike ride and I was enjoying it. And then it started raining. Not heavy, but enough to notice. And much to my surprise, I didn’t freak out, I actually thought about how lucky I was that it was going to be raining for my run. I LOVE running in the rain and I thought the triathlon gods had finally thrown me a bone and given me some favorable conditions. Unfortunately the rain didn’t stick around for my run, but it was fun while it did last.
After completing my 15 miles on the bike, I got back to transition, did my dismount – and yes the mounting and dismounting were a concern of mine – and I think I did okay. I didn’t fall or get in anyone else’s way, so I consider that a victory.
Back in transition I racked my bike, took off my helmet, threw my hair into a running hat, sucked down an energy gel and I was off to the run course.
Holy balls, two out of the three are done. Just one short 5k and I’d be crossing the finish line. I can do 3.1 miles in my sleep. This will be a cake walk.
Or so I thought.
When you don’t actually do any runs longer than 1 mile leading up to the tri and when you push your legs too hard on the bike because you’re passing people and it’s fun… you have no juice left in your legs for the run.
Running, the one sport I could do, was going to be a struggle. That just figures!
Run, run, run.
Man my legs feel like concrete.
Oh yes it did. I had a bit of the typical “lead” feeling that all triathletes have after getting off of the bike. But that wasn’t my main concern, it was the fact that my legs were just so damn tired from biking.
But just keep putting one foot in front of the other. It’s only 3.1 miles for gods sake – even in pain, I can do that.
So on I went.
I thought it was a simple out and back run course so I thought we’d be turning around at the 1.5 mile mark. This was not the case. Instead we turned around closer to the 2 mile mark. And we all know how well I do when I don’t know where I am?!?! Anxiety about not turning around started to set in and even though I tried to tell myself that it was no big deal and that the longer I run “out” the shorter the run back “in” would be. But I still wasn’t a happy camper. I was completely thrilled when I hit the turn around mark.
I didn’t think about much while on the run. Other than how crappy my legs felt of course! Like on the bike, I tried to take it all in. I tried to appreciate the scenery and all the people. I also tried to appreciate the fact that it was only a 5K and nothing more!
As I made the last turn and was about to enter the finisher’s shoot, I could see the finish line in the distance. I was just moments away from crossing the finish line and from crossing off a MAJOR item off of my bucket list?
What would I feel as I crossed the finish line? What do I feel now after having over a week to reflect on my accomplishment? And what’s next? Well, you’ll have to stay tuned to find out.
Until next time,
Gotta run (or bike and swim)